This page is in progress.  I hope to add more as we get closer to the start of the class.

Find a pdf of the prep letter for the Zoom class at the bottom of this page.

Some Q & A from the Zoom class of 6.2020:
1. I am not quite sure about the watercolor pigments... what is your request around these?  I have some pure pigments from an egg tempera class that I might be able to use?
These are just the pigments, no binder?  If so, they would be just what you want.  You can go far with the pigments in the kit, but gouache paints, waterolors, Aqua colors you might have bought from McLain's, all of these will work.

2.  You would like us to have several image ideas.... and 4-5 copies of each…yes?
well its the image ideas that count.  If you have the ability to make copies at your house (on a digital printer for instance), you don’t need to do the copying ahead of class time.
3.  Are you providing a black? 
yes there is a black pigment in the kit.

4. Will you provide guidance about aligning each layer (registering)…
yes.  In the first session you will learn about the basic tricks to be able to set blocks up for carving that will be registered and able to work together to build your image.
Prep letter for the April, 2021 class:

Matt Brown
March 21, 2021
matt@mbrownfa.com, info and resources at www.mattbrown.biz

April 10 & 11, 2020 using the Zoom format  (there is an option to keep working April 12)

I look forward to working with you making woodblock prints during the second weekend of
April. This will be my second time leading a class using an online format. I am looking
forward to improving this remote learning opportunity that I believe can work out quite well!

I have taught one or more classes each year in the Japanese hanga method each year since 1997.  During our June class of 2020 I was quite surprised at how things worked out.  Students shared regrets they couldn’t get a feel for exactly how moist to have their papers, exactly how much pressure to use with the baren, other various fine points.  As the teacher with an overview point of view I was super impressed by something previous years of teaching had such difficulty accomplishing:  folks set up to work on their own in the their own spaces on their own initiative.  This seemed huge to me.

Tools to be able to follow this class I am offering by way of a returnable, refundable kit. With your kit I’ll include a tool list for this kit, a description of what I send to help you to do the class.  You can keep all the tools (in which case I keep your entire deposit) or you can return all or some of the tools, using the check list to make your purchases).  If you negotiated the class through Melanie and the Jackson Design Center there is a fixed tool kit and ship fee.  If you negotiated your sign with myself I offer two options: the standard kit with a standard baren and the murasaki kit with the murasaki baren.  A separate fee is a charge for shipping for these kits, depending on your location.   

Supplies (carving blocks, paper,  pigments, and the like) are part of the class fee.  Between this assortment of supplies and the tool kit you should have everything you need to make a print.  Drawing materials, extra jars, clean-up rags, access to water, these are items I expect you will be able to manage on your own.  You also will need to work out a Zoom access for your computer to follow the class, and I would highly recommend purchasing an i-phone/tablet holder to be able to set up a separate Zoom portal for a second device. Set up over your work station this enables me (and the other students) to see your work while you proceed.  There are numerous options available. Here is link to one.

What to Buy. There are a few tools you might order before starting the class because you are likely to use them in other art activities.  
More hake brushes could be handy.
There is a marking pen I like a lot.

Watercolor pigments, little jars, rags, carving tools you might have, an old towel, marking pens, these are things you might get together ahead of the class. They are optional, but may be helpful.

The rest of this letter contains suggestions for things to work on ahead of the workshop. This is homework but it’s no disaster if you don’t get to it (there are many ways to start a print project). We plan to finish assembling kits and ship them to arrive in the week ahead of the start of the class.

Designing an image.
In the way a majority of the Japanese prints were made the same oban size, we also will
work at the same size: 3 7/8” x 5 7/8”. Blocks and paper are set for this size, you can go smaller if you wish, you can orient either vertical or horizontal.  The traditional Japanese ukiyo-e prints depended on a beautifully carved line block to lead the designs. These blocks took considerable carving skill and can’t be made from the soft basswood blocks we use in the class. Ukiyo-e prints were made by a team, and not all in one weekend!   Our work is different, its more about shapes and interacting areas of color.  What we can do with this simpler approach with far less skill can actually be just as beautiful, and, in some ways, pictorially more sophisticated. 

It can be helpful to use line drawings to work out image ideas.  Lines are an abstract and efficient way to describe shapes (remember, a shape makes a line at its edge).  The issue of what is communicated in a photograph or painting and what is communicated when we translate this to line is one of the stumbling blocks folks run into.  Your best tool to worki out your print image is a drawn line, but the drawn line is not what you will be making in your print and likely not what you are visualizing in your mind.  This difference is good to keep in mind.

The water-based colors we use are transparent.  Overlapping areas of blue and yellow (printed from two separate blocks) may, for example, yield a green. You can work more than one color onto a block.  Watercolor sketches can make a very good way to tease out print ideas, you are less likely to get snagged by the translation issue described above.  I like to aim for
an image drawing describing dominant darks, sometimes with areas of pattern or
gesture to guide some of the carving. Successful prints have been made straight from
photos, from watercolor paintings, from gestural brush drawings, from drawings in pen
or pencil, from paper cut-out exercises. I feel there is no one right way to start a
print project.

When carving we are carving through papers pasted face down on the our blocks.  By rubbing the back-most fibers of these papers we leave just the face layer adhered to the blocks.  This means when you work your design ideas you needn’t reverse your imagery. Modern duplication methods (copiers and digital printers) give us the ability to set up registered imagery onto multiple blocks all at the start, if we wish. 

 If you’ve spent time with the idea of an image (or two or three) that you are excited
about, you are ready to head for a Xerox machine or scanner and printer. It can help to
make 4 or 5 printed copies of your image (or images) before the start of the class. You
can use ordinary office paper. Inkjet copies can work. In the kit I plan to send a few 
sheets of a Japanese paper that hopefully will work in your printer but can be used for
these hanshita for your print project. This higher quality paper can be rubbed a little
more easily to prepare for carving.  Ideally you may have some of these copies in hand before we begin on Saturday. It may be helpful to have developed color separation ideas with these drawings. Often folks bring two or more image ideas to the class with xerox copies and we discuss which might work best.

Looking at woodblock prints.  
Color woodblock printmaking has an impressive history, especially in Japan.  The results of this technique during its 100+ year heyday in Japan is likely the largest body of art production made by a human society ever.  Estimated at maybe 400 million prints, you just can’t believe the extent and variety of what was made using this method in Japan between 1770 and 1920. But cruder work by Western artists, especially Arts and Crafts prints from the early part of the 20th century such as William Rice, Arthur Dow, Frances Gearhart, these might be more helpful to look at.  You can get ideas for your design by looking at images of contemporary prints. The Internet can be a good place to do research.  

You might also try:

-Images of prints from past Matt Brown workshops (last updated 2007, this is far from
complete, but still there are some great projects here to look at!). Look in the
“Teaching” section of my site (www.mattbrown.biz).

-the Library section of my site (look under “About”) contains a number of books including a link to Dave Bull’s “Encyclopedia for Woodblock Printmaking” (www.woodblock.com).

-Walter Phillips’ book Technique of the Color Woodcut

- Hiroshi Yoshida’s Color Woodblock Printmaking

-Arthur Dow’s book Composition: Understanding Line, Notan and Color.

I look forward to sharing with you what I think is a wonderful art form! See you by Zoom on the 10th!

Matt Brown  23 Washburn Hill Rd. / Lyme, NH 03768 / 603-306-6547

Matt Brown . . . . . . . 23 Washburn Hill Rd. Lyme, NH 03768 . . . . . . 603-795-4619. . . . . . matt@mbrownfa.com